Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, all D-Delaware, joined their colleagues in both the House and Senate on April 28 to urge Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to work directly with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that the millions of Americans who are now eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Medicaid due to job loss or reduction in income are informed that they are also eligible for the FCC’s Lifeline program.
The program is the primary federal program charged with helping low-income families obtain broadband and telephone services.
“Non-essential businesses and schools have closed across the country to limit the spread of the coronavirus, leaving families to rely on the internet now more than ever to access public benefits, search for employment, learn from home or access telehealth services,” wrote the lawmakers. “The need is greatest among low-income households forced to stretch limited resources to try to keep up with monthly expenses and put food on the table during the public health crisis. For these vulnerable populations, the FCC’s Lifeline program can help struggling families afford basic internet and telephone connectivity at a time when they need it most — but only if they know about it.”
“While we understand that the FCC has traditionally issued guidelines for states and telecommunications providers to advertise the Lifeline program, given the critical role of internet connectivity during the coronavirus pandemic, we urge the FCC to coordinate directly with USDA and HHS as well as states and stakeholders to help ensure people in need are informed about their eligibility for the Lifeline program,” the lawmakers continued.
The letter is supported by Public Knowledge, the National Consumers Law Center, United Church of Christ, OC Inc. and Third Way.
For more on the FCC’s Lifeline program, visit bit.ly/2zyJ4fq.